The Kazan cathedral, one of the most beautiful buildings in Saint-Petersburg, is now the main orthodox church of the city. It’s open to the public and you can visit it for free to get an idea of what Russian churches are like inside.
The name of the cathedral originates from the miracle-working icon of our lady of Kazan that is kept inside. The present-day Kazan cathedral was constructed between 1801-1811 and was designed by Russian architect Andrey Voronikhin, a former serf of count Stroganov. It’s said that not a single foreign specialist participated in construction or decoration of this cathedral (and don’t forget that originally a lot of buildings in the new capital of Russia were designed by foreign architects).
Russian emperor Pavel I who ordered the project wanted the new cathedral to resemble the St Pietro in Vatican, hence the famous colonnade facing the Nevsky avenue. In 1812 a war with Napoleon started and the Kazan cathedral became a kind of memorial to the heroic Russian army: military trophies like captured standards of the French army or keys from liberated cities were kept in the cathedral. What is more, in the cathedral was buried the leader of Russian army, field marshal Michail Kutuzov, who died in 1813. In 1837 the monuments to two heroes of the war, Michail Kutuzov and Barclay de Tolli were set in front of the cathedral.
As it was already mentioned, today Kazan cathedral is a functioning church and you can see a lot of worshippers there. It is open for tourists, but if you want to visit it you need to obey several simple rules ( that are actually true for any functioning church in Russia):
1. Wear modest clothes, no short skirts/shorts or open shoulders allowed
2. Men visiting the church traditionally take their caps off when entering the church, while women on the contrary cover their heads (well, for tourists it’s not that strict)
3. Turn off the sound on your cell phone and don’t talk in loud voice
4. Unfortunately no photos are allowed inside
Next to the cathedral is a romantic Banking bridge decorated with thye figures of gold-winged gryffons.